Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday on Brick Lane

This week was London Design Festival, so today I hopped on my bike and headed to Brick Lane for the biggest event of the whole thing - Tent London at the Truman Brewery. Unfortunately, I didn't get in... because I forgot to register online and it was £10 to enter. It's the end of the month, and that means I'm broke until we get paid on Friday. Meh. I was super disappointed, but the following things made up for it:

1. I was photographed in the Brick Lane market by The Guardian for having a cute outfit and accessories - my "Thank You" canvas tote bag and my bike! And to think, I didn't even shower this morning!

2. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so every crazy/hipster/scenester was out in full force and the people watching was amazing;

3. There is a Sunday Up-market in another part of the Brewery and it was full of yummy food stalls so I got 6 mini spring rolls for £1!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I Love My Friends

I love 2pm GMT. Why? Because that is 9am EST, and that is when my peeps show up at work. They sign into messaging programs, and they leave me funny stories like this one. This is from Kat, who recounted a dream she had about me:

Swandive77 14:27
i had a dream about you on saturday!
i got a picture message from you on my cell
and it was like
"london is pretty! look where i am!"
but you didn't know
that DK and i were surprise visiting you
and since you sent us this picture text message
we knew where to find you
so we took the tube
and got to the park where you were at
and you were
a hooters uniform
shiney panty hose
too high white socks
orange tap pants
hooters tank top
and like
slut machine door knocker earrings
and we surprised you!
and then we were like
we need to find somewhere to say
and we stayed in a hostel
in amsterdam
the end

SQUEEEE! Lurve mah peeps!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Thursday morning I woke up and felt like shit. Not physically - physically I felt fine - but mentally and emotionally I just didn't want to get out of bed, didn't want to see anyone, and didn't want to go to work. I was in a funk, and it didn't get any better when I stepped out of the house wearing my suede Puma sneakers and it started pouring down rain.

The whole walk to work I was annoyed and my sadness was growing. I figured it was because it was Thursday and I really wanted it to be Friday, yadda yadda, and also the onset of fall, combined with a dash of introspection of the "shit, what am I doing with my life" variety. But when I got to work and switched on my computer, the first thing I read on opening the web browser were the words 9/11. I couldn't believe I had forgotten, and for the rest of the day I couldn't tell if my overwhelming sadness was a product of my current life situation or some sort of subconscious reaction to the yearly anniversary of my lifetime's defining national tragedy.

Okay, I am the first to admit that I am lucky: I was not in New York on Sept 11, 2001, I lost no family members or close friends. The most I was physically affected by the events on that day was that it was harder for me to get around Europe the following summer without having to explain that I didn't support President Bush. But for someone whose family history is rooted in and around New York City, whose father worked (and now works again) in that capital of business, and who has built a lifetime of dreams upon walking its streets, watching that invasion was like having an organ removed without anesthesia. It physically hurt to watch the CNN broadcasts that day, and the days following, and it still hurts to remember those visuals.

The summer preceding September 11th was the first summer I worked in New York City. I commuted via NJ Transit to Newark, then took the PATH train to the West Village and walked down Hudson Street to Soho where my job was located. I was a young and dreamy designer, and everything from the coffee at my favorite coffee shop to the children going to camp at a local elementary school to various shops located on my walking route inspired me. Not in the least, my skyline view on my walk filled me with a tenderness for New York that only residents of the city can even begin to understand: walking down Hudson, the twin towers rose above the hundred-year-old brownstones and gleaming glass galleries and converted warehouses like a beacon and symbol of what could be. New York's West Side was once home to the city's hard industries, and today it has transitioned to manufacturing tons of capital. The World Trade Center was a defiant stake in the ground of Manhattan, and America's, future progress, anchoring the island in a sea of turbulent economic and political change.

My internship ended that summer on August 25ish, a Friday, and by that Sunday I was back in Syracuse for the beginning of my junior year of college. Everything I did that year was influenced by my summer in New York; I had seen what being a designer was like, what working in the creative capital of America could be, and I was hooked. So to see such a massive symbol of that summer come crashing down mere days after I left was soul-crushing. I remember not really breathing as the birds continued to twitter outside and the sun actually shone in Syracuse. It was surreal, that whole day was surreal, and pain in my chest lingered for days.

Every year now, no matter where I am, I feel that pain. When I lived in Philly, 9/11 was discussed on television and radio news shows and I tuned in voraciously; when I lived in New York, there was a palpable feeling of anguish in the air that no one acknowledged but everyone felt. Every year I would see the day on the calendar, and know it's coming; then I'd exit the subway the night of September 10, look up and see the twin beams of light, and it was the beginning of a ritual atonement. This year, I nearly forgot. My body remembered, however, and I think that is the most frightening - yet reassuring - part. Frightening in that I could even begin to forget an event that has so defined my life, yet reassuring how the body processes information and releases chemicals to remind us of what is important, what we know we should do yet resist. I could have simply let 9/11 go by and shut out the memories, but instead my body said slow down.

Not long after 9/11, Robert DeNiro directed and narrated an American Express commercial that was an ode to New York. Every time I watch that commercial, even today, I tear up and think of how much New York means to me. It's hard being this far away from that city where I cut my teeth and scraped my knees. It was hard, on 9/11, to be in another part of the world and read the newspaper reports of Obama and McCain tried not to campaign in the pit, how the government(s) are screwing around with the memorials, and hear how grieving relatives still justifiably demand answers. But at the end of that long day, I realized that this is what true remembering really is: doing what one needs to do to keep a memory of a moment in time alive, while continuing to move forward. Not an easy task, but DeNiro did it the best way he knew how - through film. If, as a designer, I can, through my work, help people do that for themselves, then I will have really learned something during that summer and its postscript.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And, it's Fall

Somehow the minute it became September, it became Fall here in London. The air is brisk, the sun is setting earlier and earlier each day, and leaves are turning brown and falling fast. Every morning I wake up to frosty air, and every night I fall asleep with cold toes. It doesn't seem fair, because it's only September 10th and in New York that can be as balmy and summery as June.

The summer here was boring: cloudy, cold, and rainy. We had sun, but not much heat, and I actually missed the sweaty stupor of August in New York. I feel a little bit jipped by the weather, but I can see why Britons love their tropical vacations - it really is a holiday to escape the cloud cover and bask in the sunshine.

I suppose one of the good things about such a prompt fall is that all of the new Autumn/Winter collections are in the stores, and you actually WANT to stop in to try on wool skirts and longsleeved shirts. Boots and dark leather are appealing, rather than stifling. But fashion isn't a convincing enough reason to embrace the impending cold. I hope that fall stays with us for its proper timeframe, because I really don't think I can face Winter arriving prematurely - or even right on time!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Going Dutch

If you are a regular visitor to this space, you know that every so often I fly to Amsterdam for meetings with the client I'm currently managing. The great irony of this set-up is that I don't actually go into Amsterdam; I take a cab to a suburb of Amsterdam, 20 minutes away from the airport. The greater irony is that I have about 15 stamps from Schipol Airport in my passport, but I've NEVER BEEN TO AMSTERDAM. That sad fact is no longer true after this weekend, when I finagled a cheap flight to the 'Dam and met up with my 100% authentically Dutch friend RIETJE and spent 48 hours shopping, drinking, walking, shopping, talking, shopping, laughing, eating, shopping, and oh, did I mention shopping? I think between the two of us we tried on every purple heeled shoe in the city. We also met up with Rietje's friend Marisa who lives in Haarlem, and hosted us Saturday night. It was a really great weekend, and it made me sad that I'm so far away from my closest friends; yet at the same time, I realized how amazing it is to be able to hop on a plane and check out cool design for a weekend. Either way, I had a great time and I hope the Dutchess gets over to London soon. You can see the photographic evidence of our Amsterdam adventure here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nike+ Human Race 10k

Yesterday, folks, history was made. No, it wasn't that Nike sponsored 10k races across the globe in 25 major cities; it was that Danielle ran her first race, finished it, and finished it in a shorter time than her goal.

I signed up for the Human Race in June, when I was still living in Willesdon Junction and running pretty much every day. It was £30 to enter, and 1/3 of the fee went to one of three charities (I chose WWF). The race was to be held in and around Wembley Stadium, the home of English football (the hallowed pitch, the Brits call the field), in northwestern London, and I figured it would be the only time I'd ever go there. It seemed like a good idea to enter the race at the time, but over the last few weeks I started to question this decision. The forecast for Sunday was torrential rain and thunder and lightning all over southeastern England, and while I don't mind running in the rain, I do mind running in an electrical storm. I mean, really... did I want to spend my Sunday evening running 6-odd miles with 20,000 other Londoners in a silly red shirt? I had no idea any of the specifics (start time, route, etc), and I was, to be honest, feeling really lazy.

But at the last minute (about 2pm), I decided that I had spent the very large amount of money, I had the shirt, so I was going to run the run. All of the runners had to be in the stadium by 6pm, and when I got there I found out that there was a rock concert before the run. There we were, 20,000 cold runners, standing around watching a band that most of us hadn't heard of, being told to jump up and down and make some noise, when we were all just wanting to get going and running already. The second band was Moby, and that was just as bad, listening to music from 5 years ago that usually puts me to sleep! The security staff were treating all of us like football hooligans, denying entry here, telling us we couldn't sit there, herding people according to their running waves, and generally being unhelpful. There weren't many places to stretch, or keep warm, as the roof of Wembley was open and we had to check our bags nearly an hour before the race started. So we sat in the stands as long as we could, then headed down to the pitch to wait for the run to actually start.

A bad MC showed us a lot of images of the other cities' runs; Paris, Munich, and Shanghai all looked like it was warm and sunny, and they also all looked like they ran through their city centers. Paula Radcliffe, Britain's premier woman runner, Seb Coe, some other British athelete, and the head of the London 2012 Planning Committee were all there to give us tips and encouragement. A team of aerobics instructors gave us a warm up routine that we couldn't really do because so many of us were crammed into a small place on the pitch (which, by the way, was covered by plastic, which I understand was to protect the turf, but then you're not really standing on the hallowed pitch, are you!?!). Finally, after hours, Wave 1 took off. Just as they did, of course, the cloudy sky overhead opened up and we were covered in a light rain that quickly turned into a steady drenching. I was in Wave 2, so we had to wait about another 20 minutes in the rain, but then we were off as well.

I feel like I started out really fast; there were a few downhills and I was zooming down them. We went out of the stadium and through a tunnel, and then all of a sudden we were in the parking lot and snaking through barriers. The course was very narrow, and I spent a lot of time dodging people, passing them, and slowing down as I came up to slower runners. I feel like my running on the canal towpath was good training for the obstacle course of this race. The course overall was pretty boring, and subsequently I found out it was also pretty badly designed. There were a lot of hairpin switchbacks, which in the rain and with the crowds were pretty dangerous. The scenery was shite, as the Brits say, because we were running through an industrial park and around a big Ikea and Tescos. We ran along a highway at one point, and I thought I'd get sprayed by cars driving through the puddles in the outside lane! The lighting of the course was also pretty bad; the race planners relied on the street lights and a few of them were out, and you really noticed how dark it was at those points. Also, there were no spectators - just a sea of red-shirted runners. Thank god I had my iPod, and was listening to Dolly Parton, Jimmy Eat World, and Rihanna. I know, what a mix.

Running-wise, I felt really good until the 4k marker, when I started to feel it; at 5k I thought to myself, I'm halfway there! and then stepped into a lake of a puddle. I put my head down for 6-8k, and felt my pace slow; I wasn't so much tired or hurting as I knew I couldn't keep up the pace for the rest of the race. At the 8k marker I sped up, and soon we were back into the Wembley parking lot, snaking around through barriers. At 9k I sped up again, and I really couldn't wait to finish. I had no idea where the finish line was, but I rounded a turn and there it was so I sped up really fast and finished 1:01:02 after our wave started.

Once through the finish line (the only place where there were spectators, which made such a difference), you basically had to stop running and couldn't slow down properly. There was a ramp where people were handing out Lucozade (British Gatorade) and Nike longsleeve wick-away tees, which were great because I was soaked all the way down to my underwear. I met up with my friends back at the bag drop at the stadium, and gingerly walked to the tube to head home. I actually felt really good after the race, albeit cold; I wish I had brought sweatpants with me so that I could stay warm after running, instead of walking around in my wet baggy Umbros. Nike texted me with my exact time, 58:04, right after the race - I had aimed to finish the race in an hour, so I was happy despite getting home at 10pm.

Overall, my first race was a success; I'm not sure I'd do another expensive Nike run, but I definitely loved running and trying to do well, and having a race on the calendar helped me continue to run and train. I'm pretty proud of myself for doing it, and I feel like I'll continue to do runs in the future. Who knows, maybe my earlier goal of a half marathon will actually become a reality!